Chapter Three

The morning air continues to grow sweeter with each day of Young Summer, made sweeter still with the lingering taste of the golden fruits the join him with each sunrise.

Thæon sits now, greeting the late-morning warmth from where he sits in his favoured spot on the rock shelf, high enough from the water’s edge that Bröder can’t splash him should he go traipsing into the water.

As it happens, he’s scavenging for his own food amongst the trees, keeping himself entertained where the dragon had declined to join him; the beast sunning himself just like Thæon, but he’s claimed a spot east of the river, wings splayed wide, neck stretched out as he snores softly in harmony to the whispering winds.

He is majestic, even when simply dozing; his hind leg kicking out in response to his daydreams and Thæon can feel a smile on his lips, closing his eyes once more, face to the sun.

It has been three weeks since Thæon and Bröder climber the mountain slope side by side; three weeks since the trespassers stumbled their way into early graves and Thæon has yet to find a warning that there are more, still hunting.

The day following their intrusion, after having soothed the dragon and encouraged by his exhaustion that saw him sleeping, Bröder curled up next to him, Thæon had retraced the steps of the bastards; the task easy where they hadn’t seen the need to try an conceal their passing in any shape or form.

Over the following days, he patrolled a makeshift border, sometimes accompanied by both, sometimes only the dragon trailing behind him with a cautious inquisition to the wilds. But there were no humans other than himself on this mountain and as they days bleed into weeks, Thæon’s guard began to relent.

He still walks the perimeter when the air is particularly cold, or the night is too long and Thæon feels unsettled in the core of his soul, but those walks show nothing to betray that of a human’s curiosity poking around, other than his own footsteps trailing in the soft earth, and they’ve grown infrequent; Thæon lowering his guard to simply enjoy the warming summer days; building a trust with the dragon as he comes to understand him more deeply than just a charge given to him by the sleeping gods.

And Theon nearly went and screwed things up by calling him Obí.

It had been a slip of the tongue, his mind having been playing with a self-imposed dilemma that calling for the dragon by saying “hey” or “you” was insulting and degrading when he had shown, on multiple occasions that he was as intelligent as Thæon—certainly even more so—and he’d been turning names over in his head, wondering if he could ask, wondering if it was insulting for a human to know a dragon’s name, then amusing himself with the thought it wasn’t like the dragon could slip into the common tongue to tell him, or he would’ve done so by now.

He had said it on accident, the dragon lounging in the river on a particularly hot day, having decided lazing was boring and had come to budge the outlander in invitation to play and Thæon had been turning over suggestions on the tip of his tongue when it had just slipped out; an innocuous “cut it out Obí.”

The dragon had tilted his head, crooned an unheard question and Thæon hadn’t meant to insult him, he just thought the name was fitting. Privately he can prefer offering a different name, such as one of the Enaran but maybe that in itself was crossing a line.

Despite Thæon’s reservations, Obí seemed to appreciate his name.

Besides, it suited him.

He is childish, skittish and clingy; wrapping close to Thæon when they settle beneath the fruit trees come evening. He is patient and playful, and has taken to copying him in what Thæon can only guess to be a game; going as far as to imitate him when he sharpens his swords by scratching at the ground; churning up the week soil and tearing at the grass roots until the meadow was dotted with bare patches of soil that encouraged the black-winged bora to scour the earth for fallen seeds and bugs brought closer to the surface.

Thæon had been amused at first, watching Obí try and sharpen his claws as he himself sharpened his swords; mud being ineffective against stone-talons; having listened when Thæon suggested he use the trees trunks instead, not sure if scratching at stones would be too much—the feeling of his own fingers clawing at rock sending a shudder down his own spine at the thought—and was proud when Obí did just that.

By the week’s end, nearly every tree surrounding the meadow had been stripped of its bark; a few having fallen to his overpowering strength.

The copying continued; each action far more confusing than the last.

Thæon caught Obí imitating him; gathering sticks and stones and arranging them seemingly randomly whenever the boy collected his own things from his pack, searching for his whetstone or fishing lines or a change of clothes; the dragon even going as far as imitating him whenever he tried to speak, although that game got old quickly, Thæon forgetting himself for a moment and having raised his voice, palms sparking.

Usually Thæon took pride when others took note of his anger and gave him a wide berth, but when Obí had fled to the other side of the river, timid and small where he ducked into the shadows and watched fearfully from behind bark-less trees Thæon had been struck by a discomfort that weighed heavy in his gut; as if he had eaten stones.

He had apologised after, when the night grew cold and the campfire beckoned him closer; Obí having crept meekly into his own nest, nose turned away and eyes downcast for the length of time it took for Thæon to apologise. He had only snapped once, but Obí was quick to realise that such games were left to be played with Bröder.

Over the two weeks, the three of them had grown accustomed to one another’s company.

But what surprised Thæon the most, was how Obí has come to trust him.

He didn’t realise how far that trust went, until one night, when the Fireheart had sparked a flame to cook the fish that was to be his meal for the evening; following a routine that he had fallen into with ease; and Obí came to nose at his fingers with a gentle concern. He had curled his lips in soundless words; his muzzle nudging as delicately as he was able against Thæon’s palms; sniffing as if in search of something unseen.

With a whine in the back of his throat, it wasn’t too much of a far fetch to guess that Obí was concerned. He was still fearful of the fire, and that fear bled from his heart with the worry that using his magic to summon flames meant that Thæon burnt himself.

He thought that an amusing thought when first considered; Obí being a dragon and all, and far more in-tune with magic than he could ever hope to understand; touched by his dragon nonetheless and Thæon couldn’t keep the smile from his lips when he had him, again, that that was not true; reassurances spilling forth until it was that his own fire fluttered like a heartbeat across his scales; Obí’s the dragon’s eyes alight in a cautious mix of awe and uncertainty until he realised that the fire was nothing more than a lick of warmth; like the touch of soft furs over his skin.

Thæon had watched as Obí’s eyes began to warm to the sight; his shoulder losing the tension of fear that carved them into cragged edges and sharp rocks; until it was that he was confident enough to conjure his own flame once again. He had urged him incessantly; wanting Obí to push past the harrowing memory of having his used his fire as a weapon when it was clear that he had been backed into a corner. There had been no reason to hold back his elation when Obí had sparked a flame all his own.

Now, he is at peace with the fire burning inside of him, comfortable enough to heat the nest before laying down to sleep; and it wasn’t like Thæon had done much—or maybe he had; maybe he had more than he could fathom—but there was a sense of pride that lifted him every time Obí would snap at him in jest, and little sparks of fire fanned from his mouth in simulacra to a threat that wasn’t real.

Thæon opens one eye, glancing to where Obí lays now; his head in encore to Bröder’s gurgling’s where he’s grabbing at his horns in invitation to come explore the woodland with him.

He’s brushed off where Obí doesn’t have the energy to continue, having already spent most of the morning traipsing around after him, but if there is anything Bröder has learned from Thæon it is stubbornness and he continues to tug on the dragon’s horns, batting at his face and dropping berries in front of his nose because the calf thinks more with his stomach than he does his head and he reasons that Obí must be the same.

Maybe if Bröder dropped a deer carcass in front of him he might get a stronger reaction, because Thæon knows only his hunger is going to shift the overgrown lizard from where he lays, sprawled on the grass in direct embrace of the sun’s warmth.

His wings lay draped around him like a large red blanket; his tail swaying idly side to side to brush the grass and make the flowers sway in his conjured wind; the same, prideful smile making itself known upon Thæon’s face without him even conscious of it.